Editorial note: Laura Maria Niewoehner is a MA student in history at Bielefeld University. She completed an internship at GHI from January until the end of March 2020, when she had to depart DC early due to the Coronavirus health crisis. Her MA thesis is tentatively titled:“`Kriegsszitterer`, `Kriegsneurotiker` oder `Kriegshysteriker` – Fachaerztliche Wahrnehmung von psychischen Auffaelligkeiten von Soldaten im Ersten Weltkrieg” and analyzes how medical specialists perceived mental illnesses in soldiers during and after World War I. She’s worked at a variety of museums and public history projects, including in Namibia, where she did research for an exhibition dealing with the post apartheid era. She also worked at a regional memorial for POWs of World War II.
Laura is a student assistant for the management team of the Bielefeld-based collaborative research centre 1288 ‘Practices of Comparing” and assists professor Silke Schwandt with her digital humanities work. Laura is very interested in researching the implications of digital research strategies and presentations for historical work, and href was lucky to recruit her as a guest author.
The Teutoburger Forest is rich on having myths and essays about Hermann the German. [i] According to history Hermann, in Latin called Arminius, has fought the battle of Varus against the Roman Empire successfully 9 years AD. [ii] Because of the crushing defeat of three Roman legions the Empire has sacrificed the further extension of the Roman regions – it remained in German hand.[iii]
In this heart of German history the
city Halle is located and the home of approximately 21.700 residents.[iv]
This medium-sized city has grown substantially in recent years. The established
fashion industry with its most popular brand “Gerry Weber” and the nearby
highway have contributed to the growing population. Halle is particularly
well-known for its history of transportation and the tennis stadium OWL Arena. Once
a year, the best tennis professionals from all over the world visit Halle to participate
in the big tournament. In addition, the so called “Haller Willem” was probably
the first cab driver in this area. In the 19th century, he
transported with his coach people and goods from and to the cities Osnabrück
and Bielefeld and contributed to the flourishing of local life.[v]
Today this transportation line is a railway line and is named after coach
driver Wilhelm Stuckemeyer. Given Halle’s rich industrial history, one could say
it is a shame that this flourishing city does not offer its own physical museum.
Nonetheless, the city has found an innovative way to make its history
accessible to all. The museum manager and historian Katja Kosubek and her team
have created a virtual museum that guides digital users back to the beginning
of Halle, in Westphalia, up until the present.[vi]
As long as you are willing to take a digital path to history, history comes
alive in the virtual museum. The virtual museum makes history come alive when
someone is willing to take the digital path of history.
The digital museum presents a permanent exhibition with a virtual tour. Every ‘ZeitRaum’ – exhibition room – represents a different topic and phase of time, which are connected to the local history. After “entering” the exhibition room, visitors receive a short introduction of the topic and time period being presented. Visitors also have the opportunity to further explore topics through photographs of historical objects. The range of topics is broad; the time period covered starts in the 17th century and ends with the 2010s highlighting the technical progress of television and development of virtual worlds.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, one can access the so called ‘Geschichtspfade’ – historical walks – to explore the region on foot. Presented with a map, one has the opportunity to use a digital guide to take a walk through history. For example, one can walk to the old cemetry and follow the stations given on the map. If you take your smartphone, the museum provides additional information on each station of the walk. Furthermore, the museum has designed historical walks for children and also provides rally sheets for schools that may wish to take advantage of the museum’s resources. The virtual museum also offers special exhibitions and publishes articles related to current historical topics.
The virtual museum is presented in German. But for visitors reading German, the museum offers a new and interesting way to explore East-Westphalian history. It provides visitors the option of gaining deeper knowledge of the town’s history. Hence, it offers insights to historical objects which would not be possible without the virtual museum. Therefore, Katja Kosubeck has created a new way of telling history without going to physical museum. It could be useful for anyone who wants to learn something about German history from a local perspective. Students can use the articles for research or history enthusiasts can improve their historical knowledge by exploring the museum.
Take a click, it is free: https://www.haller-zeitraeume.de/
[i] This text has been created with the help of Krista Bolton, who has made linguistic corrections before publishing.
[ii] Benario, Herber, “Arminius into Hermann: History into Legend,” Greece & Rome vol. 51, No. 1, (2004).
[iii] „Hermannsdenkmal,“ Naturpark Teutoburger Wald, accessed March 11, 2020, https://www.naturpark-teutoburgerwald.de/attraction/hermannsdenkmal/.
[iv] Stadt Halle Westfalen, Zahlen – Daten – Fakten, (acess 2/12/2020 10.34 am).
[v] „Der echte Haller Willem war ein Fuhrmann“, Stadt Halle Westfalen, accessed March 10, 2020, https://www.hallewestfalen.de/portal/seiten/haller-willem-historischer-fuhrmann–900000558-22700.html.
[vi] Haller ZeitRäume Virtuelles Geschichtsmuseum der Stadt HalleWestfalen; (acess 02/12/2020 11.31 am).